NBC Sports Boston's NBA Eastern Conference All-Stars, Volume 1
BOSTON -- The NBA All-Star game is still several weeks away (Feb. 16 in Chicago), but there are a number of players in the Eastern Conference who are off to strong starts and, at a minimum, cement their place in the ongoing All-Star conversation.
Here’s a look NBC Sports Boston’s Eastern Conference All-Star team, Volume 1:
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Starting guard: Kemba Walker, Boston
Stats: 21.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists
The transition to Boston from Charlotte has been a relatively seamless one for Walker, who continues to distinguish himself as one of the NBA’s better guards despite playing with a more talented crew surrounding him in Boston. And he’s doing it in just 32.2 minutes per game, the fewest he has played since his rookie season.
Starting guard Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn
28.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists
There has been very little about Kyrie Irving’s still-early tenure in Brooklyn that’s surprising. He’s scoring a ton of points, dropping dimes and getting a good amount of rebounds for a guard. But his durability is once again an issue with him missing eight games (and counting) with a shoulder injury.
Starting forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee
31.2 points, 13.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists
The Bucks have quietly crept their way back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings, fueled largely by Antetokounmpo’s game continues to expand beyond finishing at the rim. He’s having a career season in assists, but his overall impact at both ends of the floor will position him to repeat as the league’s MVP.
Starting forward Pascal Siakam, Toronto
25.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists
Kawhi Leonard’s departure put more pressure on Siakam to build off his breakout season a year ago. He has not disappointed, elevating his play in all phases of play and maybe most important, he's been instrumental in keeping the Raptors among the leaders in the Eastern Conference despite key players (Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka) missing time with injuries.
Starting center: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia
22.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists
Joel Embiid is the best center in the East, but his play has taken a step back in several categories. He’s shooting a career-worst from the field (45.3 percent), tied his career-low on 3’s (30 percent) and his blocked shots per game (1.5) is also a career-low mark.
Reserves: Jayson Tatum, Boston
20.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists
The third-year forward has started playing with more consistency to warrant being talked about as one of the best in the East. While his shooting numbers are slightly down (40.9 percent, compared to 45.0 a season ago), he’s taking more than five more shots per game while still posting career marks in rebounds, assists and steals.
Domantas Sabonis, Indiana
18.8 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists
Sabonis has done a solid job of alleviating the concerns Indiana had with having Sabonis and Myles Turner in the starting lineup. He has been among the league leaders in double-doubles with 13 in the 16 games he has played.
Jimmy Butler, Miami
18.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists
He’s with his third team in as many seasons, but Butler remains one of the better two-way players in the NBA whose presence, more times than not, has a positive impact on winning.
Trae Young, Atlanta
27.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 8.4 assists
It was a tough call picking Young over Philly’s Ben Simmons. But Young’s scoring and passing game are in overdrive now even as he plays without his running mate John Collins (NBA suspension) who will be back sometime in December. Meanwhile, Simmons is registering career lows in just about every statistical category and the Sixers have not lived up to the preseason hype thus far, which, in part, has to do with him not making as big an impact as we saw a season ago.
Andre Drummond, Detroit
17.5 points, 17.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists
Drummond's production as a scorer and rebounder is undeniable. But does it impact winning? That’s why despite consistently being among the top centers in the NBA, Drummond will be among those talked about extensively between now and the February trade deadline as a player who may be on the move.
Bradley Beal, Washington
28.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists
Last season without John Wall provided tremendous insight into Bradley Beal being more than just a good shooter. His all-around game makes him one of the toughest covers in the NBA, which is why despite the Wizards’ woeful record, Beal’s play warrants him being among the top dozen or so players in the East.
Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana
18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 8.1 assists
The former Rookie of the Year continues to get better. He's increased his scoring average in each of his four NBA seasons (from 10.2 to 13.0 to 15.6 to now 18.8). He has done a solid job of carrying more of the load for the Pacers as they await the return of Victor Oladipo, in addition to being one of the better combo guards playing at a high level at both ends of the floor.
Best of who’s next...
Jaylen Brown, Boston; Blake Griffin, Detroit; Ben Simmons, Philadelphia; Zach Lavine, Chicago; Marcus Morris Sr., New York.